What do giraffes, horses, hyenas, the African bush and Australian culture have to do with one another? Internationally recognized artist Kate Jenvey has painted and lived in and among the animals in these wildly different landscapes, on two vastly different continents. Growing up with her nature- loving photographer parents and no “normal” means of entertainment, like TV, meant that young Kate was free to play and explore in the African Bush, spending most of her days on a landscape full of people and creatures in a culture that most of us only see on TV, ironically.
When not exploring, reading or studying, Kate would draw the animals that she knew so well, honing in her art skills.When Kate turned 9 years old, her parents made the life changing decision to move a content away to Australia and create a new life for themselves. “My move to Australia was difficult as I felt quite alien for a long time, so many differences and only a few similarities.”
Now living in Australia, Kate still would draw the animals of her past, as well as the new ones she met in her new country. Fast forward to today, and Kate is a full-time artist who works in oils, colored pencils, graphite and still lives in Australia. Since moving there she has also spent much more time around horses, both for her own joy of riding and for her various art projects.Kate has traveled back to Africa and across the world, both for her own art, teaching her workshop series and her international exhibits.
AOTH: Would you tell us what it was like to grow up in eastern Africa, and how that impacted your life? How long did you live there?
KJ: After my birth in Nairobi, we left East Africa when I was nine years old and made the move to Australia.Looking back, I consider it an absolute privilege to have grown up in this remarkable part of the world.
Not only was the scenery stunning, the abundance of wildlife was breathtaking and the culture was colourful, all these elements had a huge imprint on my young mind. Both my parents were keen photographers and we spent much time out in the bush exploring and studying wildlife.
My fathers’ knowledge from being a game warden was imparted to me at an early age, I was taught to respect and obey the natural world. Both Kenya and Tanzania were developing countries and our commodities were basic, so I grew up without TV and instead with books and creativity, drawing from a very young age and in hindsight, a wonderful beginning.
Moving to Australia, and as you said, a different culture, is not something many people get to experience.
AOTH: Did your art continue to reflect the feelings, thoughts and emotions that you had while adjusting to moving through different parts of the world?
KJ: My move to Australia was difficult as I felt quite alien for a long time, so many differences and only a few similarities. I missed the bush and the wildlife in particular. My art helped me keep my connection and love for Africa through drawing wildlife and it remained a common thread allowing me a continuity of a past life. I had begun horse riding before we left Kenya and my passion for drawing horses developed more after my move and really helped me settle in. I found horses challenging to draw and spent most of my creative time trying to perfect them, even during school lessons!
AOTH: What is your favorite subject?
KJ: It would be very difficult to choose between horses, elephants and lions!
AOTH: Since you create both drawings and oil paintings, are there any other mediums you would like to try?
KJ: I enjoy trying other mediums as it helps me expand my knowledge and would like to try pastel pencils.They would have a familiarity as a drawing tool but are different enough to be a challenge.
AOTH: Who is your favorite artist and why?
KJ: There are many, too many to mention here and all for different reasons. Specifically, an early influence was a German artist, Wilhelm Khunert who painted wildlife in Africa and India, and prints of his work hung in our home. Also Alfred Munnings with his superbly executed equine paintings that are highly inspirational to me.
AOTH: If you were not an artist, what would you be doing now?
KJ: My second choice would be a photographer of horses and wildlife. I could still travel and seek out wildplaces and animals.
AOTH: Where have you traveled to for your art and what has been your favorite experience?
KJ: My main aim with my art is to create from experiences that have touched my soul so I love to travel out to the wilderness for the wildlife or to rural areas to seek out horses in their environment.My art has taken me to Africa, the U.S., the U.K. as well as around Australia. I have travelled to the western U.S. for workshops, exhibitions and the animals. To be juried into Western Visions at the National Museum of Wildlife Art in Jackson, Wyoming in 2009/10 was one of my favorite experiences. To be included in such an esteemed show and meet some of the wonderful artists was very rewarding. I head back to Africa whenever I can to soak up all that nature has to offer and translate this into my art.I was honoured with the invitation to be part of an international wildlife exhibition in Namibia in 2018 and traveled over there with my daughter. We continued on with a safari to see more of Namibia and Botswana and this too, is a favourite experience involving my art.
AOTH: Would you tell us more about your workshops?
KJ: My workshops are run on a monthly basis from my studio, either in pencil or paint and have a nature-based theme. These are small classes so there is plenty of individual attention for each of the students.
I also travel around the state to teach art or community based groups. I have found this to be and extremely rewarding part of my art journey. I feel privileged to be able to teach and this year I have donated a portion of each studio workshop to a conservation cause of my choice, giving back to the animals that have given me so much.
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Thank you, Kate Jenvey, for letting me interview you and share your art with the Art Of The Horse community!
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